What does Genesis 41:26 mean?
ESV: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one.
NIV: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.
NASB: The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same.
CSB: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years. The dreams mean the same thing.
NLT: The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity.
KJV: The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one.
NKJV: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one.
Verse Commentary:
Joseph (Genesis 41:14–16) reveals that Pharaoh's two dreams deliver the same message from God in the form of allegory (Genesis 41:1–8). In both dreams, the numbers represent years. The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy ears of grain represent the same seven-year period (Genesis 41:17–24).

As Joseph will go on to explain, the seven thin cows and seven thin heads of grain represent a second time period, one of famine (Genesis 41:27). This shortage will be so severe that it will entirely undo the seven years of abundance (Genesis 41:31). While that is dire news, there is also hope. Since Pharaoh has been warned, he can prepare—Joseph will make such suggestions as part of his interpretation (Genesis 41:34–36).
Verse Context:
Genesis 41:9–36 contains Joseph's explanation of Pharaoh's visions. When Egypt's ruler is bothered by vivid dreams, his formerly jailed cupbearer remembers a young Hebrew. This is Joseph, who explained the cupbearer's dream in prison (Genesis 40:23). Joseph explains that Pharaoh's dreams point to seven years of abundance in Egypt followed by seven years of desperate famine. Joseph boldly proposes a plan to manage the coming crisis.
Chapter Summary:
Joseph's status in Genesis 41 begins as "forgotten Hebrew prison slave" and ends as "the second most powerful man in Egypt." The cupbearer from the previous chapter finally mentions Joseph two years later, when Pharaoh is troubled by dreams which wise men can't interpret. Joseph reveals the meaning of the dreams: seven years of abundance will be followed by seven years of great famine in the land. Pharaoh, recognizing that God's Spirit is with Joseph, makes him second in command over the entire nation and tasks him with preparing for the famine.
Chapter Context:
Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers (Genesis 37:24–28). He then excelled in his work for an Egyptian official, only to be falsely accused and imprisoned (Genesis 39:20). There, he accurately interpreted dreams for servants of the Egyptian ruler (Genesis 40:20–22). Unfortunately, the restored cupbearer failed to mention Joseph, leaving him in prison for two more years (Genesis 40:23). A series of disturbing dreams leads to Joseph's audience with Pharaoh. This, in turn, leads to Joseph becoming the second most powerful man in the nation. The following chapters emphasize Joseph's reunion with his family. Details about his administration of food during the famine are recorded in Genesis 47:13–26.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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